GOP and 8 Dirty Dems Think the Problem with Streams is That They Don’t Have Enough Coal

If Congressional Republicans could erase any and all progress made over the past 8 years, they probably would. Fortunately, because of the nature of bureaucracy, they can’t reset the clock all that easily. But unfortunately, they can erase much of the end of Obama’s presidency.

That’s because of an obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act, which was passed in 1996 as part of the Contract with America Advancement Act. It sailed through both houses easily back then (326–91 in the House, unanimous consent in the Senate).

The CRA enables Congress to fast-track resolutions of disapproval of federal regulations. Congress has 60 legislative days after a regulation goes into effect to rescind it. And Congress only needs a simple majority vote (and the signature of the president) to do so.

The CRA has only been used once: in 2001, to repeal a Department of Labor rule on ergonomics from the Clinton administration.

The House GOP, and their funders, would love to repeal everything from the final days of Obama’s presidency, but doing so does take time. Given the time constraints, they won’t be able to eliminate everything, but they can still do a lot of damage.

The House began yesterday by voting to repeal two regulations that target big polluters.

The first regulation up for elimination was the Stream Protection Rule, which prohibits mountaintop removal mining if streams or rivers would be permanently destroyed and requires coal mining companies to restore land to its pre-existing state. According to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, the rule, which was finalized in December, would save approximately 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forest over the next 21 years. Mountaintop removal mining isn’t just bad for the environment — it’s also bad for human health, leading to higher rates of lung cancer, among other health problems.

The resolution of disapproval passed the House 228–194. 4 Democrats joined the Republicans in voting for it, and 9 Republicans voted against it with the Democrats.

The 4 Democrats were Sanford Bishop (GA-02), Jim Costa (CA-16), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), and Collin Peterson (MN-07).

The 9 Republicans were Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Jamie Herrera Beutler (WA-03), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02), Bruce Poliquin (ME-02), Dave Reichert (WA-08), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Mark Sanford (SC-01), and Chris Smith (NJ-04).

The resolution then went to the Senate. The motion to proceed passed 56–42 last night. Again, 4 Democrats joined the Republicans in voting for it.

Those Democrats were Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

Final passage came this afternoon: 54–45. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chris Coons (D-DE), who were absent last night, were present to vote NO. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was absent because of his confirmation process. And Susan Collins (R-ME) voted NO. The rest of the vote was the same.

The second regulation on the chopping block was the SEC’s “resource extraction” rule, adopted last June. A provision of Dodd-Frank, this rule requires companies registered in the US that extract oil, natural gas, or minerals to report annual payments to foreign governments equal to or greater than $100,000.

The vote on repeal in the House was 235–187. 5 Democrats voted for it, and 4 Republicans voted against it.

The 5 Democrats were Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Gene Green (TX-29), Collin Peterson (MN-07), and Filemon Vela (TX-34).

The 4 Republicans were Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Walter Jones (NC-03), Ed Royce (CA-39), and Chris Smith (NJ-04).

The Senate will be voting on a motion to proceed tonight.

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Jonathan Cohn

Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.